Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Home Town Boy

by Scott Dalen

Two nights ago, I had the opportunity to travel about 45 minutes from where I live now to my old hometown, and my old home church. The Bishop of my synod was holding a conference meeting, which apparently was best suited to happen at the church I grew up in. Several people from my current church went to the meeting, about 11 in all. I rode in a van along with 5 others, including one of our pastors and his wife.

As we drove between the town where we all live now and our destination, the pastor mentioned to the rest of the people in the van that we were going to my old stomping grounds. So then, as we got about half way, I began to feel like a tour guide.

“If you look out the right side of the car, you can see the grove that surrounds my parents’ house. That is the house that I grew up in.”

“Now if you look over there, you can see an area that my dad used to farm. That creek that runs through it, yes, I spent a lot of time playing in that creek bed. Over there is my grandparents’ farmstead. Yes, Dad still farms that property.”

Then as we came into the booming metropolis of roughly 800 people, “This is where I went to school, yes it is small. And now if we turn here and drive a block, we will find the church.”

Once we arrived at the church, I felt even more like the tour guide as I spoke of the history of the building, which was built about the time I was entering Junior High.

After I finished tour-guide mode, the meeting with the Bishop actually began. The meeting had three main points. The first was to introduce a new synod staff member who has recently started. His job is to work with synod stewardship. He gave his introductory lecture, which in my opinion lasted about 15 minutes longer than it really needed to. The second point was for the Bishop to highlight was he considers to be some of the major accomplishments that happened at the Church Wide Assembly, lest they be overshadowed by the new policies involving human sexuality. As you can probably imagine, that was our third and most involved topic of discussion.

I found myself disappointed by three things. One was the overall lack of people at the meeting. In total there were maybe about 20-30 people there. The second thing was the lack of age groups being represented. At 30, I was by far the youngest person there, and with the exception of a few of the congregation’s women who were serving refreshments, the youngest people there were 50. The vast majority were retirement age. As discussion began, I felt that the Bishop did a pretty good job of trying to remain objective and answer questions/concerns as best he can. Let it be said that I do not envy his position in light of recent events.

As you can likely imagine, the questions raised by those in attendance certainly presented the opinion as being opposed, in some cases as far as outraged at the decision recently made at the Church Wide. As I listened to the statements made by those that were extensively verbal, I found myself in a bit of an awkward position. On one hand, I agree with the viewpoint of those that are adamantly opposed to the decision. I will say it, I don’t agree with it. However, that being said, I believe that we still need to listen to the voices of those that disagree with us. I was saddened to witness that those so verbal at that meeting didn’t seem to realize that there are people with an opposing view on this issue right here in their backyard. I made the statement that regardless of their belief that everyone “around here” agrees with them, there are people sitting right down the pew from them on the other side of the fence. Needless to say, I got quite a few shocked looks from the entire group for saying it, but at that moment, I didn’t really care.

As the meeting concluded, I felt that I should greet the host women that were there. I had grown up in front of them after all. So I stepped into the kitchen to thank them and was of course bombarded with questions regarding “How’s it going with seminary?” After answering their questions, I was reminded of “Lutheran hospitality” when I walked out of the church carrying a plate of cookies. They wouldn’t let me leave empty handed. Needless to say, there are benefits of being the "home town boy."


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